Our Digital Rights
As expected, protests have been registered from various quarters over the new Information Technology (Intermediary Guidelines and Digital Media Ethics) Rules, 2021, meant to keep a close watch on digital media. Those opposing the act are of the opinion that the new law is nothing but an attempt to curtail the freedom of press. The protestors have also sought legal remedy to solve the dispute. News portals are apprehensive that in the coming days, news criticising the government will be blocked much before it reaches the people. Their argument is that the said Act will effectively pose a danger to democracy. Critics of the new act believe that the present government is trying to stifle any dissent in the bud, in a very systematic manner. In support of their claim the protestors are have been referring to the latest report of the American organisation Freedom House, which has stated that since the present government has come to power in India, both political and social rights have been curtailed to a large extent.
Union Minister Prakash Javrekar has however strongly denied the allegation of imposition of censorship on digital media. According to him, the new law is not meant to curb the freedom that the media in India enjoys but that the main goal behind bringing the law was to make digital media responsible. The Union Minister stressed that digital media will enjoy similar freedom like newspapers and television channels. The government informed that the new law has received widespread support from every quarter and only a handful of news portals are opposing it.
The fact is that there is little surprise that the Centre has brought an Act to monitor digital media. For quite some time now, in the absence of any specific law digital media in India has turned into a hub for fake news, irresponsible content and unethical provocative remarks are being rampantly shared on digital media. Users of social media have completely forgotten that liberty only becomes meaningful if it is practiced with a sense of responsibility. Irresponsible behaviour cannot be justified in the name of freedom and thus a step from the government was inevitable. As per the provisions of the new law, a three-tier structure will be set in place to keep a vigil on digital media. A government appointed committee has been entrusted to oversee the process, moreover the Information & Broadcasting secretary will have the power to block any objectionable and controversial content. The power is applicable to social media platforms like Facebook along with news portals. It is expected that the new law should not interfere with creativity and to ensure that people continue to enjoy unhindered freedom in the creative field, the government needs to take some concrete steps. For this purpose, the grievance cell which will be formed with officials from eight ministries, should be chosen wisely and impartially to maintain neutrality and strengthen democratic values.